“Can past abuse still harm you after you’ve become a Christian? Anger, anxiety, addictions…these are partial symptoms broken Christians may still suffer from abuse that has not been resolved correctly. Fortunately, you can lose the pain of the past and find peace that lasts.” – Don Mondell
If you are a broken Christian you probably attend church, pray and sometimes read your Bible. Yet—something is wrong inside you—and you know it.
You may experience ongoing battles with…
- neck aches
- low self-esteem
- impaired concentration
- debilitating stress
- nocturnal tendencies
But you don’t know why.
You may struggle with or be addicted to…
- illegal street drugs
- prescription medications (often opioids)
- screens (tv, phone, video games, social media)
- shopping & spending
- sugar in various forms
But you don’t understand why.
You may have experienced…
- difficulty keeping jobs
- broken marriage
- difficulty maintaining relationships
- troubled finances
- failed health
But you don’t understand how.
You may have had encounters with a…
- drug addict
- verbal abuser
- physical abuser
- sexual abuser
- parental divorce
But you don’t see how it affects you now.
If this sounds all too familiar, I want you to know that you’re not alone; you’re not the only one. I’ve spent decades helping people just like you. From that experience I can say, churches—your church—is full of people who continue to suffer the same as you.
This Sunday, most will put on nice clothes, arrive at church, listen, sing, smile, and shake hands. Then they will go home, take off their “mask,” and return to their familiar brokenness. And like you, most have no idea why they struggle as they do or how they came to be this way.”
A common problem is many church leaders can spot the issues surrounding your life; however many may not understand the actual source of those issues.
Many well-meaning Christians will tell you things like…
- you need to pray more
- you don’t have enough faith
- you need to be in church more
- you need to study your bible
- you need to memorize scripture
I agree; so do all of us.
But what happens when you try to do that shopping list and still you suffer with the problems I mentioned earlier?
Again, well-meaning Christians may say to you…
- you don’t try hard enough
- you’re not serious
- you’re oppressed by a demon
- you’re possessed by a demon
- you’re not really a Christian
And now you’re running out of options.
What’s left? maybe you go to a “deliverance” service. Maybe one or more people pray “over” you. Maybe somebody tells you, “God told me…about you, and you’re to….” And maybe you follow the “God told me” instructions. Maybe it all works—what if it doesn’t? This is the path many have walked.
It’s important to note that a “broken” Christian is somebody who wants to & often does love God; they are somebody who wants to be connected to “Christian.” Yet, broken Christians typically experience a diminished life that is less than what God can provide, and this result is usually due to a deep issue of which they may or may not be aware.
While they may or may not be aware of the true issue, they are almost always unaware how that issue has affected the decisions they have made—and the life they lead now.
In most cases, broken Christians have suffered a traumatic event, an abuse of some kind. In many cases the event(s) occurred in childhood. Now, as adults, they struggle with one or more of the symptoms I have previously mentioned in this article.
Before I go further, please understand that just because a Christian may exhibit one or more symptoms, it does not automatically mean they are a broken Christian. Also, they do not have to experience many or all of the symptoms at any particular time. That said, as they progress down the destructive path, they are certain to develop additional symptoms. This is simply a progression or outgrowth of one thing leading to another. It’s akin to if I have a sprained ankle, it will cause me difficulty walking, which in turn, can cause abnormal stress on a leg muscle, which can lead to further pain, etc.
Furthermore, I don’t just consider an isolated symptom, rather I look at the pattern of a person’s life. Upon close review, I will see the actual cause & effect pattern emerge. Some consistent ongoing symptoms may be: difficulty keeping jobs, broken marriage, difficulty maintaining relationships, troubled finances, failed health, depression, anxiety, anger issues, fear, headaches, neck aches, low or no self esteem, impaired concentration, debilitating stress, sleeplessness, nocturnal tendencies.
There are more symptoms, but I want to emphasize that Christians who struggle with depression, anxiety, anger, etc. are NOT bad Christians – they just need a certain type of help. Before they find that help they will almost always continue with progressive symptoms.
In a basic sense, the brain simply interprets those symptoms as pain. All people seek to end pain and find relief; what’s critical is: what form or practice that relief takes.
As adults, broken Christians have never recovered from the traumatic event(s) they experienced in earlier years. As time passes, they then learn a way to “do life” that temporarily suppresses their pain. Understand that their “pain” is not usually at the forefront of their everyday thinking. In other words, they don’t rise in the morning with a full recognition that goes something like this.
“Ok, when I was nine years old I was raped. That event affected me in such a manner that it now causes me to think and act in certain ways. I understand that some of those ways of thinking and acting are destructive. Yet, the whole thing simmers just under the surface, and when it tries to come out and find true Biblical, Godly resolve & healing, I suppress it with whatever “device” I’ve learned that can bring me temporary comfort.”
Their actions are more automatic and they usually don’t see how the past is connected to the present. Unfortunately, that “device” they have found to bring temporary relief from the pain can include damaging addictive behavior.
The behavior can be anything, but often includes excessive use, abuse or addiction to one or more of the following: illegal street drugs, prescription medications (opioids, stimulants, etc.) alcohol, pornography, sex, work, overeating, tobacco, social media, shopping & spending, television, movies, video games, gambling, food, sugar in various forms.
There are more, but keep in mind the device or thing they do to shut off their mind and receive temporary relief can be anything. It could be working out in a gym. The key factor is they habitually do it and don’t realize the sense of comfort they receive is masking the true pain that is begging for resolve.
This addictive behavior becomes a familiar escape that keeps them seemingly functioning…until the addiction grows and the lack of true soul “repair” causes other symptoms, such as these I previously stated:
- loss of job
- difficulty keeping jobs
- broken marriage
- difficulty maintaining relationships
- troubled finances
- failed health
Again, there are more issues that arise as a person continues down their destructive path. This behavior can continue for decades. Some “manage” the entire process better than others, and thus, longer delay the inevitable destruction.
What may be confounding to other Christians, even leaders, who are aware of the broken Christian’s poor choices, is that the broken Christian will continue to attend church, Bible study, and association with other Christians.
Broken Christians usually do not see the original issue within them or realize the depth of trouble they are creating for their loved ones. Unfortunately, broken Christians are more likely to pass on to their children, the same soul trauma or “curse” they have lived under their entire lives. The visible fallout in the new victim answers why approximately 50% of the children of alcoholics will become alcoholics.
“Christians who struggle with depression,
anxiety, anger, etc. are NOT bad Christians;
they just need a certain type of help.”
– Don Mondell –
To continue with this example, the adult child of an alcoholic, now an alcoholic themselves, will of course, demonstrate the typical characteristics of an alcoholic. That’s the visible symptoms or obvious consequences. What is not seen is the internal deep issue that has prompted the child toward alcohol addiction.
Thus, the result is that we see you are an alcoholic; you may even agree that you’re an alcoholic. Now, forego an explanation that it’s just the high you get, and answer this—WHY—are you an alcoholic?
Guide for Answering
- Do not answer by saying, “my parent was an alcoholic.” I understand there is research that shows alcoholism can be passed on genetically.
- Do not answer by saying, “it’s a result of environment.” I understand there is research that shows children will learn what they live.
Yes, that research has bearing and those conclusions may be true. Yes, those ideas can be and often are a contributing factor. Yet, I have found that those ideas alone, are not the nucleus or core of what propels you toward alcohol addiction.
No, there is a deeper issue, and the symptoms of which are not exclusive to alcoholics or the adult children of alcoholics. Sadly, in over 30 years of helping “broken Christians” I have never encountered a person who had lived with or in close contact with an alcoholic, drug addict, or verbal, physical or sexual abuser, and who did NOT exhibit symptoms. This can be so decades after the abuse ended and even with an early conversion to Christ. Many of the same symptoms will also be present in the children of divorce.
It is to the resolve of that deeper issue I focus my ministry. It is there that I have seen genuine and lasting deliverance.
NOTE: By “deliverance” I do NOT mean the casting out of demons from in or on a person. I mean deliverance as in being freed from something that has held a person captive.
This brings us to what form the original abuse(s) may have taken.
Keep this in mind.
Damage to one’s soul can occur from what would seem to be unlikely events; events we may not immediately judge as being “traumatic.” And the damage can occur from just one event…certainly from repeated events.”
Let’s briefly consider verbal abuse.
First, Webster’s definition for the word, “abuse.”
- a corrupt practice or custom
- improper or excessive use or treatment
- language that condemns or vilifies usually unjustly, intemperately, and angrily
Second, the Bible has much to say about our speech, but for the sake of brevity & clarity, consider speech from this Biblical perspective:
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29 NIV
“The tongue can bring death or life…” Proverbs 18:21
With the consideration of sacred Scripture in regard to our speech, we must decide whether God is speaking in a poetic manner to express a possibility or He is speaking factually to express instruction—a command. For me, God is not speaking with poetic “greeting card-like” language, rather he is stating a clear command on how we are to speak, and the eventual outcome of our speech to “build up” and “benefit” others, not tear down or belittle.
Thus, from both man’s definition and God’s instruction regarding our speech, I summize that verbal abuse can be any harsh word toward a person; words that do not build up or benefit them, but in fact, words that accomplish the reverse. I have no faith in the old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” In my opinion, if we choose to corrupt our speech toward a person we choose to abuse them.
Also, harsh words spoken about or to another person is also most likely contrary to how God sees that person. Here are a few passages that give us an idea of God’s view of us: Isaiah 43:4, Luke 12:6-7, Psalm 139:13-16, Matthew 6:25, Jeremiah 29:11. It is my belief that when we say something, that diminishes another person from God’s view of them, again we abuse that person.
I have worked with many affected people who did not immediately see that how they were spoken to was verbal abuse. Nor, did they correlate how the verbal abuse incorrectly informed them as to how God sees them, and then how that incorrect information caused them to think, speak & act in damaging ways.
By making that statement I am NOT offering critique or criticism of any Christian doctrine; I am only reporting on what I have witnessed for over 30 years in the privacy of one-on-one counseling with affected individuals. Also, I have never influenced my findings with an individual by first suggesting symptoms, causes or beliefs; I listen. Once they have clearly stated their symptoms and background history, I note the all too familiar patterns.
In my ministry to sufferers of abuse, essentially Christian adult children of trauma, I have found this to be true: they profess Christ and they want to be pleasing to God. They attend church, pray, and read their Bibles, and yet—they still suffer the effects of the original abuse that was traumatic upon their soul.
The abused may have been frightened or even horrified at the onset of the abuse, however for the majority of their life thereafter, they never correctly calculate or understand the correlation between the abuse and its long-term effects upon their life. For most, once finally apart from the abuse, they intentionally attempt (unsuccessfully) or they subconsciously suppress the past. They move on with the cares of life…and they suffer—without understanding why.
Perhaps the worst of their suffering occurs, because they think that once they become a Christian, they will automatically no longer have in their life the negative results from the traumatic event(s). I have heard of a few people being instantaneously healed of their emotional suffering and deliverance from their addictive behavior; but only a few. My experience has been that most need help.
That said, when some affected Christians do not experience instant relief, they often think it is due to a deficient level of faith on their part. They can believe they aren’t set free because they don’t pray enough or pray right; they don’t attend church enough or do or say the right “Christian” things. That belief sends them into a deeper, more vicious spiral. The spiral brings discouragement. The discouragement begs and eventually “screams” for relief.
They then often return to where they have found temporary relief in the past—their addiction(s)—and the downward spiral continues.
This information is the subject of my upcoming book, soulHOPE; a blog post is not sufficient to cover all that must be discussed.
In regard to my blog, I’d like to wrap up by saying, DonMondell.com is not about me. It’s about Broken Christians; those who still knowingly or unknowingly suffer the effects of past abuse. Maybe that’s you, and if it is, you are welcome here.